Friday, November 11, 2016

Seeking wisdom

Kurt Vonnegut was born on November 11th, 1922.

One of my long-held traditions was to write a letter to him on that day.

He never replied to any of those letters (heck, I don't even know whether any of them reached him), but I kept up the tradition for many years. Much, I suppose, the way I keep this little blog. Sending words out into the universe without knowing whether they might ever connect with anyone.

In light of all that's occurred this week, I'm writing to him again. I just wish that this time, he'd be able to respond, as I'm sure we could use some of his wise advice.

Although, who knows, he might just go along with the down-home homely advice offered in the sign.

And yes, I wrote some of those letters long enough ago that I used a typewriter, thus the likely now-jarring font:

Dear Mr Vonnegut, 

If you were alive, you'd be turning 94. A somewhat creaky age, I suspect. Not an impossible age, but one where I expect that you'd be slowing down. Nonetheless an age when your sense of wisdom would likely be keener than ever. 

Quite a few of us have had our world upended this week. We were expecting one thing to happen, but instead the opposite occurred. 

The reactions I've heard about have included crying (in all its various manifestations, from tears streaming in shocked silence to tears accompanied by sobbing and even shrieking), vomiting, or going to bed and pulling up the covers. 

Apparently so many Americans wanted to know how to emigrate to Canada that our government's immigration website crashed.  

Then yesterday, the president-elect met with the current president of the US, Barack Obama, a fellow I'm sure you've heard about even as far as Tralfamadore or wherever it is that you might now be. 

If the news cameras can be trusted anymore, the new guy came away from that meeting looking a lot like the kid who's been taken to the firehall (I know how you loved firehalls and fire engines) after being caught playing with matches. Sobered right up. Or, to put it in Bondian terms, "shaken, not stirred." *

The only positive spin I can manage on this is that it's just part of the cycle of big change that's been coming for such a long time. Again, I look to thoughts Tralfamadorian as I do my best to come to an acceptance of the reality of now. 

One of your writer-colleagues, Toni Morrison, offered some good advice: "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. This is how civilizations heal."

To that, I imagine you would wholeheartedly agree. After all, doesn't that pretty much sum up how you spent your life here on this little blue planet?

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veterans Day in the US, so I turned on the radio a few minutes ago -- just in time for the moment of silence. Thankfully, that's not a sound one gets very often on the CBC. 

Several speakers then offered remembrance and, as is always the case, in both official languages, French and English. But this year, they added something I didn't remember hearing before, another speaker offered these in a First Nation tongue. Yes. A time for healing. Hallelujah

Which brings to mind one other bit of news. A very cool fellow should have arrived in your zone last night. His name is Leonard. I expect the two of you should find plenty to talk about. 

Best cheers, as always,


* Explanation of this phrase brings to mind another of your works, Cat's Cradle, with its exploration of the properties of ice, a fascination held in what we call 'real life' by your brother, Bernard

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